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Why we Don't need Immigration to "Fill Vacancies"

We hear it said that we need immigration to "fill the vacancies that Brits won't take".

For example, we noticed an article in the Daily Telegraph (online 8-2-24, print 9-2-24) by Annabel Denham entitled Mass Migration is slowly bankrupting Britain.

She stated:


Studies have shown that low-paid immigrants and their dependants will, over their lifetimes, be net recipients of public funds. We may find ourselves with a considerable long-term bill, one far higher than paying British workers to do the jobs, at a time when debt is already at around 100 per cent of the economy. The trouble is, British workers can't – or won't – do the jobs.


"British workers can't or won't do the jobs."

This has been a long-running claim of the pro-immigration industry but it doesn't ring true.

It conjures up the notion of British people sitting on their lazy behinds while all these go-ahead immigrants are thankfully "filling the vacancies" that the Brits are too idle to consider.


It is telling us, "Immigrants are doing the work that you can't be bothered to do, and so you should be grateful to them, and so you should support more immigration."


However, this is not a true reflection of what is happening.


Consider these 3 vital points:



As more people come into society, they create more demand for goods and services. This in turn creates more vacancies, which require more people to fill them, which requires more immigration, which creates more vacancies, which require more people to fill them, and so on, and on…


Mass immigration creates more vacancies which creates a demand for more immigration, and on and on.

Continuously high levels of immigration create a perpetual and upward vacancy spiral.

To blame "British workers" – presumably indigenous British citizens as distinct from new immigrants – for not filling these vacancies is completely missing the point that many of those vacancies are only there because of mass immigration.

To blame Brits for not taking those (usually) low wage jobs is unfair.


After all, if we took "immigration" out of the equation then many of these vacancies would not exist in the first place. They exist only because of immigration!

In an economy without mass immigration, the vacancies which did exist would be more keenly sought after and would pay more, and therefore, contrary to what we're told, the British workers would be more inclined to fill them.

In this regard, in 2008, the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs produced an insightful report on "The Economic Impact of Immigration" downloadable as a PDF here.

Download PDF • 1.15MB

The report found that the much-vaunted claims made for immigration were not all they were cranked up to be!


Regarding the "filling vacancies" notion, Para 104 stated the following:


104. Rising immigration has not resulted in a decline in vacancies because the number of jobs in an economy is not fixed. Immigration increases both the supply of labour and, over time, the demand for labour, thus creating new vacancies. As William Simpson of the CBI explained, "immigrants do not just plug existing holes in the labour market…they create new demands for products and services which are already available, but also those that cater to the immigration population. So this will, in a dynamic economy, lead to creating new vacancies" as companies seek to recruit more employees to increase production to meet this extra demand. (Q 103) In other words, because immigration expands the overall economy, it cannot be expected to be an effective policy tool for significantly reducing vacancies. Vacancies are, to a certain extent, a sign of a healthy labour market and economy. They cannot be a good reason for encouraging large-scale labour immigration.


[Q 103 refers to a question in oral evidence.]


This point is developed further in Paras 122 and 123:


122. We recognise that many public and private enterprises currently rely upon immigrants – from the NHS to City institutions, from the construction industry to residential care. We do not doubt the great value of this workforce from overseas to UK businesses and public services. Nevertheless, the argument that sustained net immigration is needed to fill vacancies, and that immigrants do the jobs that locals cannot or will not do, is fundamentally flawed. It ignores the potential alternatives to immigration for responding to labour shortages, including the price adjustments of a competitive labour market and the associated increase in local labour supply that can be expected to occur in the absence of immigration. Each of the alternative ways of responding to labour shortages involves its own economic costs and benefits. Rather than deducing a need for immigrant labour from the existence of vacancies in the economy, the discussion about how to respond to labour shortages should be based on analysis of the feasibility and net benefits to the resident population from the various alternatives including immigration.


123. Immigration encouraged as a "quick fix" in response to perceived labour and skills shortages reduces employers' incentives to consider and invest in alternatives. It will also reduce domestic workers' incentives to acquire the training and skills necessary to do certain jobs. Consequently, immigration designed to address short term shortages may have the unintended consequence of creating the conditions that encourage shortages of local workers in the longer term.



As the House of Lords' report is saying, maybe if there were fewer people willing to work for low wages, then maybe the wages might rise to make it worthwhile for British workers to take those jobs.


Maybe people are not taking these jobs because the pay is simply not worth the effort. Maybe it is the mass immigration which is keeping those wages low, and consequently unattractive to most people, except immigrants.


In that case, immigrants are not necessarily filling a "skills gap". They are filling a "wages gap".


Paras 47 and 48 of the House of Lords report notes, in this regard, that it is immigrants who benefit the most:


47. The biggest beneficiaries from international migration are migrants themselves, as employment in higher-income countries enables them to earn higher wages and incomes than in their home countries. Immigrants' families and, in some cases, the economies of their countries of origin may also benefit. However, the economic impacts of emigration remain disputed, largely because the negative effects of the brain drain need to be balanced against the potentially beneficial effects of remittances.


48. Immigration creates significant benefits for immigrants and their families, and, in some cases, also for immigrants' countries of origin. Although these effects may be given some consideration in the design of UK immigration policies, an objective analysis of the economic impacts of immigration on the UK should focus on the impacts on the resident (or "pre-existing") population in the UK. This includes British citizens and non-British long term-residents but excludes new immigrants and their countries of origin.



It may be that some British workers don't want to work in fields which are dominated by recent immigrants with whom they don't necessarily share anything in common. Anecdotally, we've heard this point regarding the unwillingness of some people to work with foreign Care Home staff!



Our guiding principle is that the economy should serve the people. We shouldn't be constantly importing people in order to serve the economy!


The biggest hypocrites on this matter are those – usually on the left – who say, out of one side of their mouth, that "we need immigrants for the economy" while out the other side of their mouths they say, "capitalism must be destroyed"!


Of course, such people are always coming up with excuses for the present level of immigration – regardless of how irrational, contradictory and harmful – because they just want to abolish all borders anyway. They should just be honest about that.




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